Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined hundreds of Regeneron employees Thursday morning at the pharmaceutical company’s Tarrytown campus to celebrate the recent addition of nearly 300,000 square feet of lab space and to announce another expansion project.
Employees began moving into the new labs a few weeks ago, company representatives said. The newest expansion proposal of another 200,000 square feet for the company, which has more than 4,000 employees, will add another 300 jobs at the Landview at Eastmark complex. Regeneron now operates more than one million square feet of space at the site.
Cuomo recalled how Regeneron co-founders Dr. Leonard Schleifer, the firm’s president and CEO, and Dr. George Yancopoulos, the chief scientific officer, appealed to his father in 1988 for a $250,000 state economic development grant when the elder Cuomo was governor. Cuomo said his father took a chance on the fledgling company, in part because both co-founders are also Queens natives, when Regeneron had only four employees.
While he said his father would be proud of how Regeneron has become a vital cog in the county and regional economy, Regeneron’s most lasting value has been the lives the company has improved and saved because of the drugs it has developed and the research it continues to pursue.
“More than anything, we appreciate and thank each and every one of you because you’re using your talents to help people and make this place a better place,” Cuomo told a sea of hundreds of Regeneron’s employees.
To highlight the company’s impact, Thursday morning’s program, which took place in a large tent outside on the grounds near the new buildings to accommodate the employees, featured two Westchester residents who have benefitted from Regeneron’s work.
Stacey Lane was born with a genetic disorder known as Familial Hypercholesterolemia that caused her to have life-threatening high LDL cholesterol levels. She spoke of how Regeneron’s development of the drug Praluent likely saved her from a premature death.
Lane said she was six years old when her father, whom she inherited the condition from, had a heart attack at 36 years old in 1966 despite being thin, active and a non-smoker.
He died a short time afterward when Lane was only six years old. Lane’s brother also suffered from the condition, which saw their LDL levels reach 400 as children. Until recently, doctors maintained Lane on a cocktail of various medications with difficult side effects.
“I can now say for the first time in my life I can look forward to growing old with my husband, watching my children grow up and seeing my grandchildren,” Lane said.
Praluent is one of three FDA approved products that Regeneron has developed in its 27-year history.
Austin Jacobson of Bedford recounted how he suffered for years through a debilitating form of eczema called atopic dermatitis, which caused such severe head-to-toe itching that his skin would be red and pockmarked with flaking skin and scabs. Because of the extreme discomfort, Jacobson said he contemplated suicide.
However, he participated in a dupilumab clinical trial for one of the company’s investigational compounds that is currently in its Phase 3 trials. Since being part of the trial, his skin has returned to normal and he can lead a normal life.
“You saved my life because you gave me hope, you gave me the ability to be a human being, not a monster,” Jacobson said.
Schleifer and Yancopoulos recounted the challenges the company has faced, including the high price to conduct research, the years it takes for the FDA to approve a single product and the controversies behind the pricing of medications.
Schleifer said there are unscrupulous members in their industry but Regeneron is run by scientists, whose mission is to help people and become the world’s pharmaceutical leader.
“We need good drugs and we also need good drugs to be priced reasonably based on the value that they give,” he said.
“At Regeneron, everything begins and ends with the patients we are trying to help,” Yancopoulos added.